Read the article in the latest issue of the World Intellectual Property Review (issue 4/2022) written by our European Trademark Attorney Riikka Palmos.
Top tips for trademarking in Belarus and the South Caucasus
Did you know that Belarus is planning to introduce an electronic system for registering trademarks? And that Georgia has a fast-track process for registering trademarks in just two months? Read on to learn the most important things to know about trademarking in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia.
During 1H 2021, Papula-Nevinpat is running a six-part webinar series covering the top things to know about registering patents and trademarks in the Russia-Eurasia region. The first webinar looked at trademarking in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia.
Much of our work in this region is handled by Trademark Attorney Annikki Hämäläinen. Born and educated in Russia but with Finnish roots, Hämäläinen moved to Helsinki some 14 years ago and has been specializing in trademarks for CIS countries ever since.
“Before the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago, the CIS countries were not independent and thus did not have their own trademark laws. So their IP fields are still developing today,” says Hämäläinen.
“Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia are all so-called multi-class countries, meaning you can file a single trademark application to cover more than one class of IP,” she says. “They also all follow the Nice Classification, so any trademark application should correspond with that list. They’re all members of international treaties too, so it’s possible to proceed through WIPO for filing an international trademark application.”
Applications and supporting material in these countries should be translated into the official local language, and foreign applicants are required to act through local patent attorneys. Power of attorney is always needed for filing a new trademark application, renewing trademarks, or for any patent office proceedings.
“In Armenia, it’s advisable to file separate applications for the Cyrillic, Armenian and Latin versions of a trademark,” says Hämäläinen. “Disputes can be quite challenging if not all the language versions have been protected.”
Hämäläinen says Armenia is particularly strict when it comes to power of attorney, requiring documents to be signed by a company’s CEO and marked with its official seal. If the power of attorney is signed by an authorized person on the CEO’s behalf, then a document confirming that person’s authority must also be submitted.
“The Armenian trademark system works quite well, with registration taking only about eight months if there are no holdups,” says Hämäläinen. “International and national trademarks enjoy the same protection in Armenia. But it’s faster to register a national trademark, so that may be the way to go if you’re in a hurry.”
In contrast with Armenia, registering trademarks in Azerbaijan is a lot more complicated. The process typically lasts around 14 months, with extremely strict power of attorney requirements.
“Even now, during the pandemic, the patent office in Azerbaijan still requires original documents that need to be correctly notarized and apostilled. This is very challenging when many people are working from home,” says Hämälainen.
“The patent office is constantly being reorganized, rules and requirements change, and the trademark information database does not always work properly. This is all on top of the political situation being in flux,” she says. “There is much room for improvement in Azerbaijan and I’m sure the country will continue developing its practices around intellectual property.”
Formal requirements are strict in Belarus too, with power of attorney required to be signed by the company’s CEO. Overall though, the registration process is relatively smooth and trademarks are typically approved within 15 months. The patent office also has plans to start accepting applications electronically.
“Interestingly, the current law in Belarus also makes it possible to register non-traditional trademarks such as smell, motion, holograms and more,” says Hämäläinen. “But there are no specific regulations made by the patent office in this area, so registration is not possible in practice.”
In Georgia, the patent office has a smooth registration process and operates electronically. Protection of a national trademark can be obtained in just eight months, whereas an international one can take up to 18 months. There is also a fast-track registration process, with payment of an official extra fee accelerating it to just two months from filing to registration.
“Georgia has recently made a lot of improvements in the field of intellectual property,” says Hämäläinen. “It was the first country in the CIS region to adopt the appellation system for its wines. Now, 37 varieties of local products – including wines and cheeses – are protected by appellations of origin.”